I realised recently that it has nearly been a year since my Aunt Tina died. Tina was only ten years older than me and was really more like a big sister than an aunt. Losing her to breast cancer last year was devastating, but I was so very grateful to have been there holding her hand when she passed.
[FYI: I found the pictures in this post this morning after finally looking at through Facebook messages from Tina. The last time I brought the kids for a visit was 2016 and she made sure to spend lots of time with them. She set up a pool in her garden for them and took them for rides on her mobility scooter which they LOVED. I had forgotten about these pictures and was so happy to rediscover them. I also found a pic I had sent her from when Pete was a baby. Oh my heart!!]
Tina died in her room at my parent’s house. I had arrived a few days earlier from London and had the honour to help care for her in her very last days. I snuggled her in her bed (though hospice kept getting mad at me when they’d find me in there!), played her her favourite music (Beastie Boys), and tried to absorb as much of her as I possibly could before she left. Once she passed, I helped dress her in polkadots, put some makeup on her, and placed a tiara on her head simply because she would have thought it was funny. (She was always up for a tiara!)
Before she died, Tina was planning to come visit me in London and we were going to take a trip to Paris, a place she had always wanted to go. When she got too sick for that visit, we decided to take a camper van down the California coast with my mom. She ended up dying the very week we had scheduled our trip. When Tina’s remains were cremated, I was able to get a portion of her ashes to sprinkle in Paris. I’ve decided to do it on the anniversary of her death: 9 October.
I am terrified to do this alone, but it is simply too far away for family or friends who knew her to join me last minute. I am just picturing myself in a tiara with a menthol cigarette hanging from my mouth (my sister and I used to steal them off of her), crying hysterically whilst simultaneously being escorted by police because apparently scattering ashes in Paris is illegal. (Ugh. I need to do more research, but apparently it might be legal into the Seine.) [UPDATE: Since originally writing this, I have received word from a dear friend of mine who lives in Germany that she will be joining me in Paris to scatter Tina’s ashes!! What an absolutely massive relief!!]
I have been extremely emotional as the anniversary draws nearer. I am aching to be with people that knew Tina and feeling quite sorry for myself that I can’t be. But Tina was always one to look at the bright side. She wouldn’t want me to be sad, but instead to celebrate her and remember our happy times together. While not being sad is absolutely impossible (I’m bawling even as I type this), remembering our happy times together is certainly possible. So I will continue to try to focus on the happy memories, and try to invoke Tina’s vibrant, silly, creative spirit to share in my own life.
I’ve gotten many great suggestions on how to handle the anniversary of Tina’s death, but for me, the greatest suggestion was to listen to Griefcast. (I am only on episode six of 48, so gratefully I have plenty of episodes to get me through to the anniversary.) Griefcast is a podcast where comedians and other funny people discuss the death of a specific loved one. I am completely addicted and it find it enormously cathartic. I waited to listen to it until I knew I would be alone because I expected it to be very sad, but I haven’t cried at all listening to it. Not that it isn’t touching and emotional, but that’s not the focus. It is more of a conversation about death and loss in general as opposed to simply being a conversation with a mourning loved one.
I am sure many of you reading this have lost loved ones as well. I’d love to hear what you do to cope and what has helped you heal. I’d love for you to share your thoughts if you’re up for it. xx